Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich has been shortlisted this year for the Nobel prize for literature.
She has long deserved it. Having started as a journalist, she fleshed out and elaborated her own documentary style to give a voice to those who are rarely in the spotlight in the post-Soviet world. Be it victims or soldiers, their families, their mothers – people who never make it onto the front pages of newspapers.
Her books are audio guides to personal stories through the dark tunnels of Soviet history.
Incredibly moving, very subjective, full of pain, love, anger, helplessness, courage, human dignity, despair and hope. Full of contradictions, but at the same time explicit and definite. So very human.
Alexievich talked to people affected by the Chernobyl disaster, whose lives have been metamorphosed by something invisible. She talked to those who were able to return from Afghanistan, families of those who didn’t. She looked for women, who, during the time of the Soviet Union, fought in the Second World War, but never mentioned it as the story of the war is a male domain.
Her latest book “Second-Hand Time” is an exploration of the vast heritage of the USSR – these four letters and 70 years, what did they do to so many nations? Why has globalisation brought back nostalgia for homo sovieticus?
Alexievich gives an insight, a glimpse, into subjects which are impossible to grasp in their entirety.
There has been a discussion in Belarus if she is a Belarusian writer, as all her books are in Russian. She was born in Ukraine and seems not to think too highly of literary merits of the Belarusian language.
But the stories she retells with such breathtaking brilliance belong to the whole world. With or without the Nobel prize.